Spiritual traditions tend to follow a specific path: growth, stagnation, death. During the stagnation period, spiritual traditions lock down their beliefs, put them in stone, refuse to change (or are exceedingly slow to change), and attack anyone who dares to challenge the leaders’ orthodoxy. We see this now in many spiritual traditions. Some major traditions even have supposedly separate organizations that attack those who dispute their power and position as head of the tradition. You can see this now in some Christian sects that cling to the past. One even has a separate “league” to protect their closed version of spirituality.
The period of growth, on the other hand, is often one of turbulence due to the introduction of new concepts and practices. Sometimes, new introductions are incorporated into the tradition. Sometimes they fall by the wayside.
However, one proof of life in spiritual groups is often indicated by people expanding upon and reinterpreting what went before. To paraphrase what I wrote in Modern Magick:
Merely repeating what others have done isn’t magick, it’s hero worship. What I present is a tradition, and traditions must evolve. If they do not, they become antiquated and obsolete. Magick is a living, breathing, experimental science, not ancient laws carved in stone never to be tampered with.
Many people today feel that the Golden Dawn is moribund. They see nothing new, just repeating the same, old, tired stuff. Now frankly, I don’t understand that. There are several lifetimes worth of valuable study, exploration, and practice in books that are available now such as Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn. But I’ve heard from many people that the techniques of the Golden Dawn are old and dated. They want something new and fresh. Chaos magick can be seen as a response to what was perceived as magick being codified and stultified, filled with unneeded extras just to get results.
But is that true? Is the Golden Dawn tradition in its stagnation phase or even moving toward its death phase? I don’t think so. There are new books and concepts being shared by people interested in or involved with the tradition that show the Golden Dawn is alive and growing, and that the tradition does not simply consist of people repeating what others set in stone.
One of the great examples of this is the on-line magazine, Hermetic Virtues. Just last Sunday, the 24th of June, the publisher released their Summer Solstice issue, marking five years of publication. Congratulations to everyone involved!
This issue is an astounding 134 pages. I wanted to take this opportunity to describe some of the contents of this issue.
First, there is an article entitled “The Hidden Church of the Golden Dawn” by John Michael Greer. Greer’s background gives him special insights into the history of the period of the founding of the Golden Dawn, and in this erudite article he reveals how the titles of the degrees of the Golden Dawn evolved over time, what they meant, and why they are important. He makes the startling conclusion, however, that there may have been another purpose for the Golden Dawn, a purpose of spirituality that extended beyond being an occult order and offering spiritual sacraments. “By centering its sacraments on Osiris and the gods of Egypt rather than Christ and the god of Judeo-Christian tradition, the founders of the Golden Dawn may simply have hoped to provide an option for the practice of sacramental religion for those who were excluded by the Christian churches of the time.”
There are a lot of people who will either agree or disagree with Greer on this, making it exciting reading that will be debated for a long time.
Another article is entitled “Tools of Light: Magical Implements of the Golden Dawn” by Charles Chic Cicero. In this article he discusses the meanings and purposes of many of the Golden Dawn tools. Cicero writes, “Any ritual can be successfully performed without tools, so long as the magician understands the ritual and is capable of doing the proper visualizations and vibration of God names.
“However, most magicians find that using magical tools reinforce and enhance their own magical abilities. These tools do not give the magician added powers—they allow the magician to use their abilities to the fullest capacity.” He then goes on to describe what the tools look like, mean, and even gives tips on how to make them and effectively use them. This is a valuable addition to anyone interested in the Golden Dawn system or who just wants to know more about all those tools used by Golden Dawn members.
By the way, in my workshops I often say something quite similar. I do believe that a magician should be able to perform rituals without tools and robes. So why do I use them? I like it! I like the shift of consciousness when I don a robe. I like the mental, emotional, and spiritual triggers when I see and use tools. For me they enhance the work. This is similar in concept to the use of weapons by a martial artist: they should be treated as extensions of the body, not as separate weapons.
Of course, there is more to the tools than simply looking pretty. Frequent use of them also lets them function as reservoirs of focused magickal energy that can be tapped into to aid in your magick.
Samuel Scarborough reviews Peregrin Wildoak’s By Names and Images: Bringing the Golden Dawn to Life. This book deals with the inner workings of rituals and magickal work of the Golden Dawn, “those aspects that go beyond just the mechanics of performance of a ritual or ceremony. This includes various visualizations, assumption of godforms, and breathing techniques. These in conjunction with the mechanical portions, i.e. the tracing of pentagrams, the vibration of Divine Names, and movements within a temple space, form a complete ritual with a higher connection than just going through the motions of performing the perfunctory motions inherent to ritual work.” I think this is very important. Too often, people I’ve seen working the Golden Dawn tradition get caught up in the mechanics and motions rather than the roots of magick, what underlies the physical actions. Scarborough’s review will give you information on whether you need this book.
What makes a group Golden Dawn? Author Nick Farrell writes on “landmarks,” identifiers that allow members and observers to differentiate what is or is not part of spiritual group. He comes to the surprising conclusion that such landmarks are missing from the Golden Dawn. He writes, “So what we have to wonder is when an Order stops being Golden Dawn and starts to be something else? It is not a simple matter. Like I said there are no clear landmarks which anyone can identify. Golden Dawn groups will, by their very nature, emphasise some things more than another. A Golden Dawn group which uses the rituals is still a Golden Dawn group and so is one which looks at inner or magical techniques. Even a group which rejected the Z documents, such as Waite’s Rectified Rite, still functions within the Golden Dawn egregore.” This is another controversial article you’ll want to read so you can come to your own conclusions.
The Golden Dawn did not have solstice rituals as those days were believed to be unbalanced. They thought the members of the Outer Order wouldn’t be able to handle it (there was a ritual for the Inner Order). Darcy Kuntz has “compiled, edited, and created” a Summer Solstice ritual based on A.E. Waite’s work for his offshoot of the Golden Dawn. Members of Golden Dawn groups and other ceremonial magick Orders may wish to look at it and see if they want to include it or modify it in their work.
There is a lot more in this issue. Eric V. Sisco writes on the meaning and importance of of choosing to change one’s motto. Jayne Gibson writes on aspects of the mind and the Tree of Life, going farther than I did in Modern Magick. Samuel Scarborough returns with “An Invocation of Chokmah” which is “designed for the magician to link themselves to the energies of that” Sephira. Dean F. Wilson describes how Enochian Magick has been used in the Golden Dawn. Ian Cowburn reveals “The Origins of the Rosicrucian Society in England,” one of the sources of the Golden Dawn. Frater YShY reviews King Over the Water by Nick Farrell, a combination historical, philosophical, and revelatory book about the Golden Dawn that includes newly revealed rituals and instructions.
There is also an article by Aaron Leitch on an important aspect of Golden Dawn ritual. Specifically, officers in the ritual are place holders for various deities. For example, there are deities in the positions of the officers located at the east and west of the neophyte initiation ritual. Which deities should be on the “thrones” at the east and at the west? Some people, especially those who follow in the tradition of Aleister Crowley, have changed the associations from those in the original Golden Dawn tradition. Why? And should the change be made? The article reveals the background and Aaron’s conclusion. Read it and make up your own mind.
To those people who think that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is stagnant, obsolete, dying, or dead, Hermetic Virtues shows that this is not the case. It deserves your support.
“Where Do I Go From Here?”
One of the most common questions I receive from readers is “Where can I find a group to work with?” As a policy, I don’t give suggestions. Groups change over time and I don’t want to recommend a group that may not be at the level I’d like them to be for me to refer people to them.
I do suggest that people can visit The Witches’ Voice or get The Circle Guide to Pagan Resources from Circle Sanctuary. Even so, when contacting other individuals or groups, use your common sense. If something doesn’t feel right to you stay away. There may be nothing wrong with the group, it’s just not appropriate for you at this time. And if, over time, you develop the feeling that you shouldn’t be there—leave!
Aaron Leitch has been kind enough to furnish the following list. These links to groups and blogs are neither recommended nor not recommended by me, nor are they associated with Llewellyn Worldwide. I do not know if they have any relationship to each other except, perhaps, for mutual respect. I’m reposting them for your interest and examination.
Aaron writes, “These are all blogs and websites either dedicated specifically to the GD, or at least run by respectable members of various GD Orders. There are more out there, but this is a great start.”
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Blog
Hermetic Virtues Magazine
Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
Deanna Bonds – Path to the Stars
Dean Wilson – Mishkan ha Echad
Frater YShY – The Golden Handshake
Frater YShY – The Ruby Rose and Golden Cross
Morgan Drake Eckstein – Gleamings From the Golden Dawn
Olen Rush – Light of a Golden Day
Peregrin Wildoak – Magic of the Ordinary
Rufus Opus – Head For the Red
Societas Rosicruciana in America
Sr FSO – Flight of Hermes
Alex Sumner – Sol Ascendans
Aaron Leitch – Ananael
Eric Sisco – Apotheosis